Archbishop of York warns of ‘tribal and divided’ church

The newly installed Archbishop of York has warned the Church of England has become “tribal and divided”, as he spoke of turbulent times ahead for society due to the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking to members of the General Synod, which is meeting virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Stephen Cottrell said that the church has allowed “secondary things to obscure our belonging to each other”.

In his first public address since his confirmation on Thursday, the archbishop – previously Bishop of Chelmsford – told the assembly he plans to build a “safe, loving” church for worshippers.

“So, dear General Synod, as we enter some turbulent times and some challenging decisions, we are just going to have to learn how to love one another, love the world, and love God, so that both individually and collectively we can be the place where God is revealed,” he said.

“We’ve not always been very good at this. We have allowed ourselves to become tribal and divided.

“We have allowed secondary things to obscure our belonging to each other.

“The Holy Spirit reveals Christ in us, and through us may we learn afresh how to share the gospel in the world.”

In a joint presidential address alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Mr Cottrell said that the church is able to recognise each other “in our diversity as brother and sister”.

“We are able to denounce prejudice, racism, homophobia, and exclusion of any kind,” he told the assembly.

“We know how we should behave with each other and with the world. We also know that we get it wrong, and where that failing is acknowledged, let us be merciful and forgiving.”

Members of the General Synod are meeting on Saturday to discuss the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with question and answer sessions on a range of issues.

The 98th Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, takes up the historic Braganza crozier at York Minster
The 98th Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, takes up the historic Braganza crozier at York Minster (Peter Byrne/PA)

The 98th Archbishop of York, Mr Cottrell succeeds Dr John Sentamu as the second most senior cleric in the Church of England.

On a process he is leading which seeks to map the vision and strategy of the church for the next decade, Mr Cottrell said that the group hopes to bring a series of propositions to the synod next year.

This has involved wide-ranging discussions with people from across the church, including with younger Christians whose voices are “not so easily heard”, Mr Cottrell said.

He told the General Synod that the church’s voice remains “overly-dominated” by one which is “usually white, usually male, usually with a certain sort of education, usually over 60”.

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